Jan. 6 was a great night for Tim Wells and anyone else associated with Deep Roots Hard Cider of Sugar Run. The nine-year old business took two awards with its wines and three ribbons for ciders that were entered, including two first prizes. Ben Wenk (above, left) an associate of the PA Cider Guild and owner of Plowman Cider in Gettysburg presents Deep Roots Hard Cider owner Tim Wells with one of two first place ribbons garnered by the Sugar Run cidery at this year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show. Deep Roots also won a third-place ribbon with a hard cider and two third-place ribbons with wines he submitted.
Story by Rick Hiduk/ Top photo by Tim Wells / Above photo Courtesy PA Dept. of Ag
(originally published by the Rocket-Courier)
The owners of Deep Roots Hard Cider in Sugar Run racked up their most solid wins to date at the 108th Pennsylvania Farm Show held from Jan. 6 to 13 in Harrisburg. It was the fourth time they had sent wines and ciders for judging and the first time that their efforts resulted in five ribbons.
Like many foods and beverages, wines and ciders are judged in advance so they can be prominently displayed for Farm Show visitors to see for the remainder of the Show. Entrants don’t actually get to meet the panel of experts who taste their products, but the score sheets often contain notes that give the winners and losers an idea of how their entries were received.
Wine, beer, and cider winners were invited to the Farm Show Complex on Jan. 6 to receive their awards in public ceremonies. Owner Tim Wells took his 12-year-old son, Finn, and 11-year-old daughter, Alice, with him this year. They arrived safely just as a strong storm was coating roads with snow and slush.
The wine awards were dolled out just after a chocolate cake competition, and the cake entries that did not make the top three were sliced up and served to those arriving for the wine awards. “Losing cakes never tasted so good,” Wells joked. “I’m pretty sure we ate our weight in cake.”
Deep Roots’ subsequently took two third-place wins in the wine division. The Blues, made entirely from blueberries, ranked among the best dessert wines, and Elder, made from elderberries, won in the port category. But the night kept getting better with Wells’ Honey Pommeau, a fortified cider, and Trouble Maker, a mixed berry hard cider both taking blue ribbons. His fifth entry, called Apple Crisp, took a third prize.
The Honey Pommeau has proven popular in past Farm Shows, previously taking third and second place. Judge’s comments included “Love the wild boxy zest of the honey,” “Bittersweet and tart notes are beautifully complex,” and “Honey with a bittersweet fire taste.”
“It was aged in a brand new charred oak barrel, so they probably got some of that smoky taste,” Wells suggested.
The biggest surprise, perhaps, was the high scoring of Trouble Maker as it was the first time that Wells had entered it in the competition. Elder was also making its debut. For the most part, Wells explained, the wine judges are looking for product that is smooth with no overpowering flavors. Cider judges are gauging appearance by color and clarity, the bouquet/aroma, the balance of bitter and sweetness that gives the cider its flavor, and the heat – or sense of alcohol that comes through. Finally, there is a score for overall impression. Honey Pommeau received 42 out of a possible 50 points.
Tim and his wife, Lynda, opened Deep Roots Hard Cider in 2015 as a side job, but its immediate success propelled it into a full-time business by 2017. Tim handles the majority of production, and his business partner, Oliver Young, concentrates on the retail and marketing side of the business.
It surprises some that no grapes are used in Deep Roots’ wines, but the apples are sourced from Millers Orchard in Clarks Summit, and the blueberries come from Blueberry Haven in Laceyville. Wells has some elderberry bushes on the property, but “when you’re making a 150-gallon batch and need 300 pounds of elderberries, you have to outsource.” The majority of the berries that go into Trouble Maker come from distributors in Niagara Falls and Allentown, and the elderberries were purchased in Allentown but most likely imported from Europe.
The receptions for the food and beverage awards at the Farm Show generally draw a fair amount of people, Wells related, but the stormy weather had a noticeable impact on attendance. While there was almost nobody present for the beer and cheese awards ceremonies, he noted, “the cider people stuck it out to the very end.”
While they were at the Farm Show Complex, Tim and his children visited a new butterfly house exhibit, checked out farm equipment and rabbits, and Alice did some trout fishing. “We had a great time. They absolutely love the food,” he stated. When asked if Finn and Alice snuggled with baby goats, an extremely popular family activity added to the Farm Show just last year, Wells said, “We have goats here on the farm, so they’ve had plenty of goat snuggles.” In his experience, the personable and wily creatures are “trouble makers.” Hence, the label of Deep Roots’ Trouble Maker cider has a picture of the Wells’ goats on it.
The Deep Roots Hard Cider tasting room is at 348 Back Road in Sugar Run. Winter tasting hours are 11 am to 5 pm and noon to 6 pm the rest of the year. For more information, interested readers are encouraged to log on to their new Facebook page.